by PRIYA PATEL
This year, UMW is administering the Healthy Minds Study, a campus-wide survey about the health and well-being of its students. The study aims to gain a better understanding of students’ mental health needs and improve the services and programs provided on campus.
According to Vice President for Student Affairs Juliette Landphair, UMW is hoping to collect “data about the mental health and well being of our students” as well as “data about how UMW’s efforts to support students are faring.”
This survey is being conducted by the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and other colleges and universities across the U.S. are participating as well. They hope to gather diverse perspectives of different types of students, including commuter, non-traditional and graduate and undergraduate students, in order to understand how students handle the stress of college and how their mental and emotional health needs are being met on campus.
“In a study like this, we aren’t actually testing an intervention,” said Justin Heinze, principal investigator of the study and associate professor of health behavior and health education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “For participating schools our study does, however, provide a picture of how their students are doing, where the institution has strengths in terms of promoting mental health, and where they could potentially direct resources. We also hope to reduce stigma around mental health and develop best practices that can be adopted by schools hoping to support their student bodies.”
According to Heinze, 100-125 institutions across the country are participating in the study.
“Hundreds of higher ed institutions participate in the Healthy Minds Study, so we will be able to compare how UMW does with other institutions,” said Landphair.
According to Dr. Tevya Zukor, director of the Talley Center, UMW’s participation in the survey will be beneficial in multiple ways.
“Most importantly, it is a way to get direct feedback from our students about their thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes regarding mental health here on campus,” he said. “While we can, and do, survey students who utilize the Talley Center, that is less than 20% of the UMW population and those students have self-selected to obtain treatment. Knowing the general attitudes of all students can be helpful in knowing what barriers remain and how the Talley Center can be the most responsive to those needs.”
According to Zukor, the survey results will be shared with UMW administrators, including Landphair and University President Troy Paino.
“It will allow the decision-makers at the University, including the Board of Visitors, to make informed decisions based on objective measures and allow them to directly compare us to other peer and aspirational institutions,” Zukor said. “The Talley Center is always looking to expand services. Robust data, like that obtained through the Healthy Minds survey, will provide further evidence and support for enhancing and expanding services.”
According to the study’s student frequently asked questions page, the survey responses are confidential, and students’ names and personal information will not be attached to any data. Instead they will be stored in a separate file. The research team will store the data from student responses in a secure digital location for future research. Any reports or articles about the survey will describe aggregate results and not any identifying information.
As a participating university, UMW will only receive a de-identified set of data. Any sports team affiliation or indicated country of origin will also be left out of this data set so that it cannot be guessed who any individual student is.
All UMW students, including those that do not fill out the survey, are automatically entered into a drawing conducted by the study’s researchers at the University of Michigan for one of two $500 prizes or one of ten $100 prizes. Winners will be notified by email this summer. UMW students who participate will also be eligible for a drawing for one of eight $25 Amazon gift cards.
Zukor emphasized the importance of high student participation in the study.
“A high participation rate gives us more confidence that our data accurately represents the entirety of our campus and the many diverse voices within our community,” he said.
The results of the survey, Landphair said, will help guide the university’s resources for mental health.
“We know that at the most basic level, students cannot pursue their degree if they are not healthy, so in Student Affairs, we seek to support students in their health, engagement, leadership development, and many forms of learning so that they can be successful academically,” said Landphair. “This national survey will help us understand where we need to focus our efforts and resources as an institution.”